Snakebites, December 1999


Volume 99, Issue 12                Roseville, CA                  December


After almost a full year of monthly issues, SNAKEBITES is proud to celebrate
the holidays with this special collection of lies, rumors and other nonsense.
 The editors would like to dedicate this issue to all the middle- and
upper-level managers in beautiful downtown Omaha, without whom we would have
very little to write about.   And, of course,  a special year-end greeting to
all our friends on the 12th floor. (You know who you are.) 
Speaking of managers: In our last issue we described the similarities of UP
management training and the conditioning of apes in psychological
experiments.  We realize that this was totally insensitive and we were way
out of line on this.  Our apologies to the apes. 
Our target of the month is that monument to all that's right (and wrong) with
Uncle Pete, the Harriman Dispatching Center, better known as THE BUNKER. 

Report from THE BUNKER

Here's one from deep within the bowels of Harriman Dispatching Center, that
tabernacle to all things at once great and sacred about the virtual truth of
train dispatching:
Within the past week, it seems that a train dispatcher of some 20 years
experience (no Johnny-come-lately, in other words) followed a directive to
the letter about handling specified trains.  The net outcome was that one of
the sacred "Z" trains was delayed as a consequence.  Heresy that that might
be, the area superintendent (a former SP train dispatcher AND dispatcher
griever) was so incensed as a result of the delay that he wanted to charge
the errant dispatcher with, get this, "MALICIOUS OBEDIENCE".  Is there
something distorted here?
Interestingly, this same area superintendent attempted to reschedule the rest
days of most of the former SP DigiCon dispatchers so that his train
dispatcher wife could have weekends off.  There were rumors that the natives
became openly restless and near violent.  Nothing like the UP Values to
instill a renewed sense of dedication towards one's employer and the managers
thereof.  To hear the PR flacks tell it to the public, all of us are so proud
to be UP employees.   Maybe Jerry Springer could come to Omaha, rent a VFW
hall for a day, and invite dispatchers to appear before the camera so that
there could be individual expressions of UP pride for the nation to see.
I have high confidence that there will be more to come, especially about that
wonderful system for controlling train movements called Track Warrant Control
or, as it is known in some circles, Death Warrant Control.

We get Letters, Part 1 (This is just one of many on the subject)

Dear 'Bites,
I work as a conductor on the Bakersfield-LA or West Colton line. Our manifest
trains, with all their speed restrictions on our district in addition to
normal dispatching issues on this crowded line and speed slowing grades, have
a hard time making it in the hours of service. Often 10 minutes of delay can
make or break a trip.
We have a dispatcher who works 2nd trick, who, when holding a west bound
train on the cut-off for a train going on to or from the Metrolink at
Palmdale Jct, routinely stops the west manifest at Palmdale II rather than
moving it to the controlled signal at
Palmdale Jct. (The preferred move.)  By holding the train at the further
station he adds about 10 minutes delay. Apparently in the interest of
remaining ignorant of his territory he doesn't know about the 7100 feet of
space between the 2 grade crossings in the intermediate block. Or that one of
 those crossings is a private road to a cemetery and is not used at night.
This, along with similar stories from other places, show how willing the
company is to lose money, time and service because their bean counters aren't
bright enough to quantify the cost of unnecessary delay from poor dispatching
decisions made because that Nintendo game that passes for a dispatching
system gives no indication of what the real railroad is like and, heaven
forbid, a dispatcher would ever be able to actually ride the rails.
In this case, the experienced dispatchers who know the territory and the
crews who work it, know the crew will stop their train in the appropriate
place to avoid blocking crossings and otherwise manage the train in the most
effective way if he will keep the signals properly cleared for the most
effective movement.
Steve from Bakersfield

1. The most common phrase used on your shift is "What is your Hours of
2. Your idea of a good day is that just half your trains died on HOS.
3. You intentionally kill trains on the main line
4. You consider sidings to be running tracks ( the dead train is on the main
5. A hot train is also known as a "local"
6. You schedule manifest trains ahead of "Z" trains
7. Horsepower per ton doesn't mean spit
8. The tone button and phone ring constantly and you just don't care.
9. You qualified on a Lionel train set.
10. You really did order the ride, really.
11. You call relief for your relief crews.
12. Your real ambition is to be a yardmaster
13. You consider Omaha to be Paradise
14. At the cafe you make the waiter repeat your order, followed by your
15. You have DIGICON on your PC at home
16. You think your territory is flat due to the straight lines on your screen
17. Your answering machine sounds a beep and then places the caller on hold.
18. Your favorite quote is "I am the dispatcher, do as you are told!"
19. You think the Corridor Manager has "The Right Stuff"
20. You can even screw up directional traffic

Editor's Note:  There are some great train dispatchers on the UP, but you
can't play the piano when your fingers are taped together!


OK, you guys, lighten up on those train dispatchers!  Save some of your venom
for our pals over at CMS!
In the past few weeks, I'm sure you've all noticed that when you call CMS you
don't always get the dispatcher you wanted.  Well, the so-called managers got
their asses chewed because the phones weren't getting answered quickly
enough, so they set up the system to ring on the next available phone, no
matter whose.  Now you get an answer, then get put on hold while you wait for
your assigned crew disp. to answer. Maybe.  Works great for the
number-crunchers, bad for crews and really bad for crew dispatchers.
Stress on these poor souls is so bad the UP is considering buying and moving,
complete with staff, an entire surplus Soviet psychiatric hospital from
Siberia and locating it in that vacation paradise, North Platte, just for
their rehabilitation.
Speaking of bad news, don't let anyone die without making sure you can take
off some time.  One of our own recently lost a close relative and it took
five calls and three hours to get an OK for bereavement leave.  Family
values, UP Style. 
Yardmaster Daffy says they ought to pay for family photos for all operating
employees so when you bitch about not seeing your family enough they'll show
you the picture.  Now get on that train!
Membership I, flagship of the UTU fleet, visits our area in December.  This
big bus has more bells & whistles than the space shuttle.  Come out and see
where none of your dues money went.     Rumor has it this behemoth will be
equipped with armor plate and a 105mm gun on its return to Cleveland in order
to protect headquarters from the evil hordes of the BLE.
Happy Holidays,

Roseville Yard Christmas Wish List
1. Dave Roper wishes for more chairs in the Yardmaster's office so all the
officers who stand looking over his shoulder will
have a place to sit.
2. Todd Ray wishes for a new lock that can be operated by train dispatchers.
3. Jim Bradley, Bob Cree, Punky, Todd Pearce and several others wish they
looked as good as Dave Kangas.
4. The entire Car Dept. wishes the drains worked on 201.
5. Lee Neal wishes he had a date.
6. Punky wishes you guys would quit running thru those -----ing  switches.
7. K-POP wishes the wheels on his chair rolled easier on carpeting.
8. Dick Davidson wishes Art Schoener was around to give him some more ideas.
9. Carl wishes Drew would quit running into him every time he stops.
10. Corky wishes we would forget the nickname "Spike"

"...This is Worker Speaking..."

As I look out over this vast, "backside of the moon - resembling Hub-o-Rama"
view of the Union Pacific, a few thoughts begin shooting out of my
fingertips.  I can remember two short years ago when the Union Pacific was
"bleeding green," with the merger related service problems, er...MELTDOWN we
were experiencing at the Texas epicenter.  Things were really bad then.  The
UP management was scared that the government was going to break up the
railroad in the southland.  The employees (members of nearly all the labor
organizations) shared those fears, and pitched in to save the railroad. 
Remember seeing all those praises and accolades being heaped upon the
employees by various high ranking officers in the UPINFO Magazine?  (You
don't read it either?)...Well, I remember them.  I even heard the thank-yous
on a number of BTV Broadcasts. 
The bottom line that it was the employees that helped to save this railroad. 
Sure, it was jobs we saved, but it is still our railroad and without our
help, Dick Davidson and his underwhelming staff of overpaid managers would
have all been given a one way ticket down the sewer pipe express. 

So, now we are basking in the glow of carrier's appreciation.  How does the
Union Pacific show it appreciation to the employees (especially the newly
hired minions?)  Do we cut them some slack during "slack time?"  Hell no...!!
  Cut them off the extra board and force them to protect their seniority 7 or
8 hundred miles away.  Just ignore the fact that the union has said the
action violates the agreement.  Don't bother to work it out with the union,
just do it and force the kids to move or quit!!  Better yet, just keep 'um in
cut off status and continue to shove the pools and drop turns...!

It seems as if the Union Pacific, flush with excitement over its fabricated
recovery numbers, has renewed its rampage for even further cost cuts.  In
short, that means that customer service will suffer (due to the embargo on
overtime).  That also means that at a number of locations, the Carrier will
keep employees in furloughed status, at the same time refusing to permit
anyone from taking PL days or single day vacations.  The practice of dropping
turns will continue.  Does that make any sense?  Only to the bean counters,
and they have a full time job.

Every Union Pacific chief operating officer that I can remember has always
said that the railroad's number one obligation was to it's shareholders.  The
employees position on that priority list was somewhere near the bottom.  The
situation is pretty much the same with all transportation companies, with one
prominent exception.  Take Southwest Airlines for example.  There is a
company where they don't beat up on their employees, and they have
continually grown their business since 1971.  They are adding new routes (and
jobs) every year, and their employees are actually happy to come to work.  A
number of years ago, all the Southwest employees voluntarily donated a
percentage of their earnings from profit sharing and bought an additional
aircraft for the fleet.  They presented it to their CEO in a special
ceremony.  (That's a lot of peanuts!)

Do you think that conditions on the UP will ever evolve to the same level? 
The UP (along with many other class one railroads) still has that "plantation
mentality" when it comes to dealing with their employees.  Railroad
management needs to look over the fence and take a hard look at the way other
corporations treat their employees.  The Southwest example is living proof
that the bottom line will continually improve if you treat your employees
like an asset, and not a liability.

Quote of the Month
"If you had to identify, in one word, the reason the human race has not
achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be
                                           thanks to Ernie M.

Beginning this issue and sporadically in the coming year, Snakebites presents
in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers of rail management and labor.
Your Editors have tried to line up an interesting and well-informed group of
subjects for your reading enjoyment. This month we are proud to present, as
our first subject, the President of UP, Ike Evans.
Snakebites:  When Dick Davidson asked you to come aboard at UP, what were
your perceptions of the company?
Ike Evans:  Dick who? Before we begin let's relax, take off our ties and then
get down to business.  As an example of the new, informal values I've brought
to the UP, you may call me Sir.
SB:  Sir it is, then.
IE:  When I took the reins of UP, I saw that we really needed to shake up the
company, make it more responsive to its number one customer, the management.
SB:  Union Pacific management?  It's commonly thought that railroads provide
transportation services for freight.  Aren't shippers your "number one
IE:  True, but in the 1990s our focus is UP management itself.  Bottom line,
we're talking stock options and stock prices.
SB:  An interesting formulation.  UP's stock has been doing well, even with
the service disruptions last year.
IE:  Those service interruptions in reality were just mid-course corrections
as we brought our hub-and-spoke agreements on line.  If there were any
problems, they can be traced to a small band of older, disgruntled, poorly
educated, rather unintelligent employees, all of them expert computer
hackers, by the way, who tapped into our secure systems while they were off
duty and balled things up.
SB:  Let's turn our attentions to UP's labor problems.
IE:  Hold it right there!  We've got great relations with the BTU and the ULE!
SB:  You mean the UTU and the BLE, don't you?
IE:   Wrong!  After we remake the railroad in our own image, not even those
union folks will know which way is up.
SB:  That's strong language coming from the president of a company with a
long history of craft unionism.  Do you have plans to eliminate the unions?
IE:  Not exactly.  We can roll over their upper leadership by outspending
them in Congress.  At the same time we buy off their grass roots leadership
with phony OS jobs doing what we should be paying our own officers to do.
It's simple.
SB:  Let me understand this correctly:  You've initiated a policy of outright
union destruction?
IE:  Of course not.  But the planned merging of the EBT and the UUL will
redound to our advantage.  More to the point, our newly hired employees have
been indoctrinated into the UP way of doing things.  We've driven a wedge
between the veterans, especially the old SP types, and the new hires who, I
might add, are easily influenced.
SB:  Influenced how?
IE:  Our policy is to keep entry level employees, the ones who..
things with train cars, slightly off balance.  We hire them, fire them,
transfer them and then cut them off while constantly reminding them how lucky
they are to be working for UP.
SB:  But what happens to productivity?  What about job skills that only come
with years of experience?
IE:  If our subjects,  I mean employees don' t like the lifestyle they can go
to work for the competition.  As for job skills, if our new hires can flip
hamburgers, they can push buttons or whatever to drive the trains.  Again,
we're focusing on looking after UP's number one customer, and that's
SB:   If I understand you correctly, it sounds like you're working to, how
shall I say, "McDonaldize" the railroad?
IE:   Once we outsource almost every aspect of operations like Locomotive
repair, fueling, car inspections to name but a few of our present costly
burdens, Wall Street will love us.
SB:  Are these policies prudent for the long-term viability of the company?
IE:  Let's face it, shippers use UP because they have to.  We've got our
customers locked in, bottled up and if it takes two months instead of two
days to deliver a load of toaster ovens, let them eat Pop-Tarts. One only has
to look at the data in our glossy company publications to see tangible proof
of the redefined benchmarks by which our success is measured.  I congratulate
management on a job well done!
SB:   Thank you Ike... I mean, Sir, for a most refreshing interview.


'Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the yard
not a creature was stirring,
except for the guard. Who, put by the gate,                                  
                                         made sure that no crews could  make 
their escape.

The trim jobs were stuck by  the herder with care
In the hope that St. Kangas  soon would be there.
The switchmen were tucked in  their beds (er, jobs) for the night,
While visions of yard boards danced in their sight.
And Conductors and Hogheads, lugging their grips,
Prepared for their usual Christmas Eve trips.

I just tied up when I heard such a clatter
That I had to look up and see  what  was the matter.
And suddenly something had caught my eye,
Circling the Super Coop, High in the sky.
A green Ford Explorer, all covered with lights,
Pulled by eight tiny jackrabbits,it made quite a sight.
Riding inside was a white-bearded man
A bundle of papers in his right hand.
He landed the Ford in its own parking place
Walked over to us with a smile on his face

His glasses were frosty, his white beard glistened,
He said, "Gather round, guys, and give this a listen.
I've just come from Foothills and worked like the Devil
To see that you all were reduced by one level.
And now, because it is Christmas Eve,
Take the night off.  That's right,  you can leave!"

He jumped in the Ford  and he turned on the lights
And started to rise in the wintery night
And I heard him exclaim just before he was gone,
"Merry Christmas to all and be back before dawn!"

The Editors wish you all a Happy Christmas and a Safe and Prosperous New

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